If you’ve ever considered starting your own farm but lack the financial resources necessary to translate your dream into reality, you may be in luck. A new program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to provide affordable microloans for small-scale farming operations.
Aimed at assisting family farmers, veterans and socially disadvantaged individuals, the initiative is designed to reduce the financial hardships associated with establishing a farm. The program offers up to $35,000 to individuals with a low interest rate (currently 1.25%). According to a press release from the USDA the loans can be used to pay for “essential tools, irrigation, delivery vehicles, and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses.”
This is a potential boon for small farmers who frequently rely on personal loans or credit cards with high interest rates to help cover their operating costs. The new program also hopes to streamline the loan application process by significantly reducing the amount of paperwork involved.
Here in the Willamette Valley, the program may be particularly expedient as a new generation of farmers begins to take root. Although the average age of farmers in the US is approaching 60, there is a growing movement of young people looking to build local networks of producers to supply our markets and restaurants with fresh food.
According to Garry Stephens, Coordinator of OSU’s small farms program, “Relatively small amounts of money can make a really big difference for small scale farmers. The test for the success of the program will be in how easy and fast it is for farmers.”
In a system dominated by industrial mega-farms and corporate food processors, encouraging the growth and development of small-scale, family farms is crucial to the evolution of a sustainable future. In order for the transition to succeed, we as consumers must support the efforts of our community members to provide local produce and gradually reduce our reliance on the energy intensive arrangement that is spoiling our land and personal health.
by Mike Vernon